Suddick Strength Training is a brand new garage gym business with custom programs for each client. The owners, Marshall Suddick and his wife, are determined to follow this journey of fitness entrepreneurship wherever it leads. Check out what I learned from Marshall about living your passion.
Journey To Suddick Strength Training
Tell me how you personally started working out.
I first started working out I guess when I was in high school. For sports, playing football and stuff like that. I had a heavy bag and a weight bench at home before that but I just kind of messed around on it but it was never anything serious. Just when I’d have friends over we’d say, “Oh let’s see how much we can curl!” or something like that.
Oh yeah, because that’s all you do at that age: bench and curl!
Yup! That was all we knew.
How did you transition from that into starting Suddick Strength Training and actually coaching other people?
I was working out but it didn’t grab me like it has now and so I didn’t continue. And as I got older, I kind of went to the gym. I was kind of intimidated to go to the gym; we have a Gold’s Gym here and there were quite a few big guys there and I was pretty young and it was intimidating. I started going there and getting a little more serious about it and I kind of fell off. Then after I got engaged, I said, “I’ve got to get in shape for my wedding!”
I’ve always found that it’s when you go get measured for the tux that gets you!
I was putting on some of my own clothes and I was like I don’t want to go get measured like this! So I wanted to lose weight before I got measured! We had a real nice gym in the apartments that we were in so I started working out there. Then I started working out with a couple of buddies at a 24 Hour Fitness and just fell in love with it! Whenever I wasn’t at work, eating or sleeping— I was reading articles trying to get educated. I never really enjoyed working a 9-5. I couldn’t find the motivation to wake up every morning and be like, “Oh man! I’m really excited to do this!” It wasn’t like I didn’t perform well; I just didn’t enjoy it very much. There was no passion there. This is something I love doing.
What did you start out with as far as equipment and what do you have now?
I started out with a power rack, a bar, and a couple hundred pounds of weight. Pretty bare bones buy enough to get the idea rolling in my head! Now, I have four bars (2 basic, one powerlifting/oly mens, and one oly womens bar), a power rack, a TRX, one 45 degree back extension, treadmill, slam balls, dumbbells, kettlebells, 150LB slater sandstone, tires ranging from 250-600LB, deadlift/oly platform, T-bar row, dip bars, slosh pipes, Husafell trainer, drag sled, loading pin, belt squat belts, body tempering roller and I’m sure there is more that I’m forgetting.
What’s on your wish list?
I have a short term and a long term list but a few items like a Prowler, a rower/assault bike, a couple different bars (duffalo, SSB, football/swiss bar), pretty much every item Donnie Thompson puts out (fatbells, bowties, fatpad, ex-wife roller, painpill, etc).
Are you certified?
I will be testing for my NASM certification at the beginning of May.
So tell me, what’s your training philosophy? Are you like Zach Even Esh who says he’s a soul lifter? Meaning, he’ll use whatever it takes. Zach will go cut down a tree and hand you a heavy log from it to carry for a while. On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve read that Brian Shaw is so specific that he weighs the tires he uses to see how much they’ve lost due to tread wear. Where do you fall?
I’m in between the two. Yesterday I was doing some yard work, clearing out some stuff and we had an old fountain. I took off the top piece and the bottom piece was this big double basin. The front was a lot larger diameter than the bubble that’s on there so I said, “Man! This looks just like a Husafell Stone! I was like I’m just going to keep this because I can load it with weight; it’s big and empty. It’s a big concrete piece. But at the same time I want to know how much something weighs so I have a scale I’ll weigh stuff with. I can’t weigh a big tire on there but I’ve weighed my stones. So basically anything that’s going to make you stronger I’m all about it.
What about conditioning? Most meatheads don’t like to do cardio, me included. I’ll hit a heavy bag for rounds but I can’t stand to do the treadmill for ten seconds. What’s the conditioning protocol at Suddick Strength Training?
I can’t stand the treadmill, the bikes and stuff like that. I’m not a huge fan of the rower but it’s kind of growing on me because it’s kind of fun to see how fast I can go on it. For my own conditioning I really like kayaking. We’ve got two kayaks, I’ve got two stand up paddle boards. I’ve got a heavy bag. I don’t really mind sprints and stuff like that. But I do not really enjoy jogging. I’m almost 240 it doesn’t feel good long distance. I really enjoy tires, just flipping them over and over again.
So how long have you been in business?
When you met your wife you weren’t into working out. Was it difficult to get her to see that this is a passion that’s a lasting thing? Especially when you started telling her you were going to have strangers coming over to the house for you to coach them?
You know we’ve been married for going on five years. It’s not like it was overnight. She definitely understands how passionate I am about it. She’s not necessarily as passionate about training as I am which is totally fine. She is a hairstylist and she’s absolutely wonderful at it and she’s passionate about that.
Okay, your wife is a hairstylist what about you? Is the gym your primary source of income or do you have another job?
Yes it is. I have a buddy who runs a pool and spa company; hot tubs and pool installs. It’s a nice side income but this is my main income.
Do you live in a subdivision?
We live in a subdivision. It’s the biggest lot in the subdivision, it’s kind of private so no one can see from the back, we’re not on a corner but our neighbor who is on the corner— his house kind of wraps around in a weird way so we have a lot of privacy.
Okay, I know you said you have privacy but how did you approach your neighbors about putting a business in your home?
My neighbor that lives next door, he’s the only one that’s even able to see the gym so I approached him; he’s a friend, I told him I’ll be courteous about this. I won’t have anybody slamming anything at 6am. I won’t have music blaring real early or real late. And he was fine with it. If we were in a different spot we’d have to be real careful but our closest neighbor from the back can’t see or hear there’s a bunch of trees and we put up a big privacy fence last year so it blocks out some of that noise.
What are your hours of operation?
My earliest morning is a 7am and my last client that usually comes in is about an 8pm. The ones that are first thing in the morning, I’m not scheduling clients that are going to be lifting a whole bunch of weight slamming it down. I try to get them scheduled more throughout the middle of the day when there’s not going to be as many people home. Saturdays are just open. If somebody wants to come over and do some mobility stuff we’ll do that. If somebody wants to work on tire flipping, stones we’ve got the yard set up for that. And I kind of bounce back and forth between people to check on them.
When my wife and I explored the possibility of setting up a non-profit using our garage gym we ran into several hurdles including legal issues regarding accessible bathrooms. Did you have to deal with any of that?
We do not have a homeowner’s association and Nebraska is pretty easy. You have to have a single restroom available. The max occupancy that I can have at a single time with an in home business is four. So our open gyms on Saturdays is not part of the actual business. I’m not charging anybody so it’s just like anybody else just coming over to hang out. We’ll grill out sometimes after everybody lifts.
Something else we had to deal with was the gender issue. Because of my schedule I’m home more than my wife is. She’s had friends periodically who wanted to work out with me. I don’t have a problem with it but there’s got to be a certain amount of discretion because I am a married man, these are married women or sometimes I’ve trained their teenage daughters, and we’re going to be alone in the house. I came up with some solutions like keeping the garage door open at all times regardless of temperature. What are some policy guidelines you set up to protect yourself?
I have a release waiver and it says, “You’re here to train and there’s no hanky panky.” I just basically use my discretion when choosing clients. We kind of have it set up where there’s not a ton of people coming. We have a pretty steady group that comes to train with me using word of mouth advertising so I haven’t had to deal with it a whole lot. One thing I have wanted to do is put up a security camera in the gym so that if anything happened to come up like that I would have footage. The insurance policy that I have, would cover false claims of sexual harassment, if that unfortunately ever came up.
Related Post: Group Training In Your Garage
Speaking of insurance are there any special precautions you have to deal with because of your insurance that you wouldn’t have to if people were just coming over and training with you for free?
Philadelphia Insurance is who I went through and they made it real easy. The business is set up as a personal training business so no one is actually paying for access. I don’t have to worry about equipment because people are paying for my expertise not for access to my gym.
What are the challenges of coaching men versus women?
Guys come in and I think they want to be big or strong or what they think is macho. I think some of the time they will forget form and technique and everything I just told them and just push as hard as they can or jump as high as they can. It all goes over their heads then. They have this motion pattern that they have ingrained— my high school football coach told me to squat this way or something like that. So everybody falls back into those patterns as soon as they’re fatigued. It’s difficult. Women clients that I’ve had, they want to learn, they see themselves progressing. They’ll do a movement like a deadlift, say they pull a max deadlift. I’ll work on their form a little bit, maybe their hand positioning or something like that and it goes up like it’s nothing. I feel like women clients have been easier to coach.
Part of the reward of a coach is seeing someone have a breakthrough and you often see that with women all of the time because they come in with such low expectations.
Do you find that with the popularity of CrossFit and Strongman competitions that when people come to you they want to do that stuff almost before their bodies are ready for it?
Oh yeah! That’s the first thing people want to do. They want to flip tires and they want to pick up the big stones. I don’t think they realize that the tires weigh as much as they weigh. The stones too; they’ll see the pictures I have up of me doing something with the stones and I’ve picked those stones up a lot of times. It’s not necessarily all of the strength to get them it’s learning the stone. You’ve got to figure out where you can put your hands and where you can’t. What’s going to tear up your arms; people want to get in there and I’m like that stone weighs more than you do. If you drop that, it’s going to break you.
Okay, so besides the pool gig on the side and your wife’s income what are some additional income streams you’re planning on to sustain your family as your client base grows?
I recently got a sewing machine. One of the things I really want to do is start making wrist straps. I don’t know how it is in other cities but the only place you can get them here is Dick’s Sporting Goods and they’re just like the basic and they fall apart on you after a week. Or you have to order them online. So I want to start making them here and then start selling those. I found some webbing material and I’ve made some samples here. I’m having some people test them out; see how they like them, see how they work. I’m testing the waters with one online client right now to see how it’s going to go because I don’t want to jump into it and not do well with people. Train them and not do it up to the standards that I feel I should. That’s something that I feel that might need a person that’s been in the gym a little bit themselves and not just starting out.
I have a powerlifting coach and he does all of my meet coaching and he said the biggest thing is trying to get people to send video from more than one angle. Don’t send video of just one set. Keep the form as consistent as possible and send me video of more than one sets moving the camera.
If you have somebody there have them move the camera—
Yeah, because it’s so hard to judge something like a deadlift when you send one video and it’s from the front!
Yeah, and people always video from the front! Even a squat, if you’re working with a powerlifting coach and you’re working on hitting depth and making sure you’re getting to depth then you have to have good videos from multiple angles.
He said the other problem is he puts together the training plan and they don’t give him any feedback. Because they think if they didn’t call to tell you that something’s wrong then everything’s fine. But your coach needs to know whether that was an easy set. Were the numbers right for you? Are you having a good day or a bad day? Because he bases the next week’s numbers on your performance from this week.
I was kind of worried about getting feedback so on the programming sheets I have stuff where the client has to fill it out and send it back. Kind of like an RPE scale. How did that feel, was it heavy, was it light? Some of the conditioning work how he feels about that. This client has a heart rate monitor so we’re going to be checking his heart rate and different things like that.
As far as steady income goes, Christmas and Thanksgiving are times when people normally don’t care so much about health. How do you plan to get over that three month hump?
I do a lot of package deals. You buy however many hours of training and you get a couple of hours free. So even if it’s a time when they’re not going to be coming as often or as consistently we’re building that value in that sale. Like, “Hey you’re going to be coming in January and you’re going to end up spending twice as much. So if you get it now, you won’t end up paying that full rate in January.
Getting Better Each Day
You’re still sort of in this early. Tell me your worst day so far. Have you had any days that were just your worst day ever and what did you do to keep going?
There’s been a whole bunch of them! Because just starting out even though it’s my main source of income, it’s definitely not as much income as I’ve had in the past. So I’m definitely leaning on my wife a great deal to support us and she’s doing an awesome job. But it’s tough seeing a day where you’re not very busy or you have a day where you’re like, “I don’t have any clients!” Just got to keep your head up and keep going.
What did you start out doing and realize that you needed to stop doing in order to build your business?
By far the worst habit I had to break to continue to build my business was getting out of the “if you build it, they will come” mindset. I was operating as if when I had all the equipment and a space that I would just be flooded with business. THIS WAS WRONG! After I built it I realized that I then had to bust ass to get people in the door! Then I had to work even harder to KEEP them coming back!
What are your top three favorite podcasts for fitness or business?
By far my number one has to be The Joe Rogan Experience, even though many wouldn’t consider it to be a fitness/business podcast, the wide variety of guests on the show and the huge number of topics covered have provided plenty of valuable tidbits for SST. After JRE I would say I listen to the Super Training podcast and the Strength Chat by Kabuki Strength.
What are your favorite business books?
One that really left a lasting impression on me was The Nordstrom Way, if you haven’t read it I recommend picking up a copy! Nordstrom’s has made the experience of shopping with them something that is revered in the department store market and beyond! That is what I strive for with all my clients, not just a sound program, but the experience of training in an environment completely tailored for them.
You said you enjoy research, what’s the name of the book on your night stand right now?
Lately I’ve been on a pubmed kick, some of the information is helpful, some seems useless but I just can’t stop researching! I’ve also been slowly plowing my way through “Becoming a Supple Leopard” by Kelly Starrett.
A lot of the more successful strength coaches write even if they write for free because people see your thought process and it gets your business name out there. Have you explored any of the sites that accept freelance work? For example, there’s one called garagegymlife.net that takes submissions.
Ha ha! I may have heard the name a couple of times. I’ve not thought about it before but that could definitely be something I’d be interested in doing.
Well man, we’re going to wrap this up. How can people contact you for online coaching or to follow your training and learn more about you and your business?